Codex Gamicus

Dungeon Keeper is a strategy video game released for the PC in which the player attempts to build and manage a dungeon or lair while protecting it from (computer-controlled) 'hero' characters intent on stealing the user's accumulated treasures and killing various monsters. The game was developed by Bullfrog Productions under Peter Molyneux (Black & White, Fable) and released by Electronic Arts in July 1997 to high critical praise and positive gamer reaction.


The game interface is reminiscent of normal real-time strategy (RTS) games: the player uses a mouse, represented in-game as a hand, to interact with a bar on the left-hand side of the screen, allowing him to select which rooms to build and which spells to cast. Rather uniquely, the player can use the hand to pick up creatures and objects in the dungeon and carry them around, allowing for tactics such as gathering an assault force and dropping off the creatures en masse once a foothold has been established.

The hand also allows the player to "slap" objects and thereby interact with them: creatures will hurry up when slapped, chickens in a Hatchery will "splat," and some traps will be triggered. Prisoners in the Torture Chamber can thus be treated with a hands-on approach.

The main game view is in isometric perspective, however, this view can be zoomed and rotated. The player also has the option of possessing one of his creatures, and seeing the dungeon from that creature's first-person perspective, as well as use their attacks and abilities.

The map is divided into a grid of (mostly invisible) rectangles: an arbitrary number of monsters can be on any element of the grid, but only one trap or room section. A smaller part of the map is shown as a minimap in the top left corner of the screen.

The world map demonstrates the developers' detailed work: at the beginning of the game, the player is allocated one of the 20 regions of a fictional, idyllic country. As the player progresses through these regions (each of which represents a level), the areas previously conquered will appear ransacked, twisted, and evil.

Before starting a new level, the advisor will tell the player about the current region and its attributes. This has no significance on the level itself, but provides comedic effect as the advisor is unable to comprehend the good deeds of the population. For example: "This region of dreaming underlings is ruled by the beautiful Lady Catherine. She's kind, and fair, and doesn't imprison or torture her subjects...for some reason." After completing a level, the advisor will talk about the "improvement" of the destroyed region. "The streets run with the blood of the slain. Screams of pain and howls of anguish rip the night air like a vengeful siren's song. This really is somewhere you can take the kids for the weekend."


The Dungeon Heart represents the Dungeon Keeper's own life. If it is destroyed, the player loses the level, and must restart. In Dungeon Keeper 2 it is explained that the destruction of a Keeper's Dungeon Heart banishes them to a realm of darkness. Along with the heart, the player begins with a small number of imps, the generic work force for all dungeon activities: they can dig tunnels into the surrounding soil, capture enemy rooms and Portals, mine gold and gems, set traps, and even attack when desperate or threatened. Slapping creatures forces them to work faster for a while, but removes some of their health and happiness.

Once the Imps are busily working, the player must then set up a basic infrastructure: Lairs for monsters, a Hatchery (where chickens, which serve as food for the minions, are bred), and a Treasury for storing gold. After connecting the dungeon to a "Portal", monsters will arrive. The types of monster that will arrive depends on the rooms possessed, and how large they are: the Bile Demon, for example, requires both a Lair and a Hatchery of at least 25 (5×5) units. As the game progresses, the player moves along a technology tree, unlocking further rooms.

Some creatures are only accessible through special means. Creating a Prison room and leaving friendly or enemy creatures in it will result in Skeletons.

Having an enemy or friendly creature die in a Torture Chamber will result in a Ghost. Dead enemies taken to a Graveyard room will result in a Vampire being born (although it is possible to attract Vampires through the Portal in some levels).

The strongest creature is the Avatar (appears only on the last level) and the second strongest is the Horned Reaper. To obtain the Horned Reaper a Dark Mistress, Bile Demon and Troll must be sacrificed in the Temple Room. If left doing nothing, Horned Reapers will become angry and start attacking the player's other creatures. This can be avoided by ensuring the Horned Reaper is busy at all times. They will only go berserk if left to their own devices. Researching, training or praying in a Temple all keep the Horned Reaper happy.

Some players like to create a separate lair, hatchery, treasure room and training room covered by a locked door in order to keep a Reaper for any length of time. They are excellent in battle and immune to lava.

The dungeon has a fleshed-out ecology: some creatures are natural enemies. Flies and Spiders are often found at odds with one another, while a Horned Reaper, if it has gone berserk, will randomly attack any creatures in its path. The Horned Reaper does have one natural enemy though; if a lord of the land is seen by the Horned Reaper, the creature will, without any sort of regard for his allies (or his health for that matter), rush straight at him. At the same time, warlocks find it incredibly annoying if other races are cashing in on their research time, which ends up in them attacking if the Warlock is above level 1. Warlocks particularly dislike Vampires. Also, Skeletons hate Bile Demons due to the Skeleton's lack of weight contrasting with the abundance of the Bile Demon's.

The goals for each level are fairly straightforward: they generally fall along the lines of eliminating the heroic force or destroying all other Dungeon Keepers on the level.

Sequels and expansions[]

The Deeper Dungeons[]

The Deeper Dungeons is an expansion pack that was released on November 30, 1997 in North America.[2] It features 15 new levels and an improved artificial intelligence for the enemies.

Dungeon Keeper: Gold Edition[]

Dungeon Keeper: Gold Edition, released on December 31, 1998 in North America,[3] was not a sequel, so much as a repackaging. It contained the original game, Deeper Dungeons, the 3D patches, and a game editor. It also came with an additional novella of sorts, recounting the tale of a hero killed while exploring the dungeons. Most of the additions were put on Bullfrog's website, and the Gold Edition was discontinued until EA Digital Illusions CE did a repackage of Dungeon Keeper Gold.

Dungeon Keeper 2[]

Dungeon Keeper 2 is a sequel released in June 1999. It featured an entirely new game engine that natively supported hardware acceleration, Dungeon Keeper (the original) supported Direct3D via an alternative executable, but not out of the box. DK2 also used full-3D models for the creatures and enemies, rather than sprites.

Dungeon Keeper 3[]

Dungeon Keeper 3 was not released. However, some Dungeon Keeper 2 CDs contained a trailer showing some potential features of Dungeon Keeper 3, amongst them above-land battles. One member of Bullfrog Productions stated on his personal website that Dungeon Keeper 3 was going to be named: War for the Overworld.[4] This project was discontinued because, according to Ernest W. Adams (one of the developers), Bullfrog had decided not to do any other RTS of any kind. This decision was in effect the end of Bullfrog as a brand; the company had already been owned by EA for several years, and EA laid off some employees and put the remainder onto other projects such as the Harry Potter series.

Dungeon Keeper Online[]

On the 1st December, 2008 NetDragonWebsoft Inc., an online game developer based in China, announced that they entered into an agreement with Electronic Arts to develop an MMORPG based upon the Dungeon Keeper license.[5] The game is slated to appear only in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.[6]

See also[]

  • Evil Genius, a video game with many similarities to the Dungeon Keeper series.


  1. Dungeon Keeper on PC (English). Retrieved on 2008-02-14
  2. Dungeon Keeper: The Deeper Dungeons on PC (English). Retrieved on 2008-02-14
  3. IGNs Data Page [1] Retrieved December 27, 2008
  4. Ernest W. Adams - Game Credits Retrieved at 04-11-07
  5. NetDragonWebsoft - Dugeon Keeper Online Press Release Retrieved 02-12-08
  6. Kotaku - EA Announce Dungeon Keeper MMO Retrieved 02-12-08

External links[]